“My boyfriend is always lying to me. I never know if I can trust him”

“Is he mentally ill? Should I be more understanding of this or am I right to feel as angry as I do? What’s going on?”

Pathological lying is not a mental health disorder in itself but is a symptom of other diagnosable disorders. Pathological lying may accompany many personality disorders, such as Borderline (BPD) and Histrionic Personality Disorders (HPD), wherein the liar is seeking attention, or Narcissistic (NPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorders (APD) wherein the goal is manipulation for personal gain or sadistic exploitation.

Understanding the personality pathologies associated with compulsive lying can help you spot red flags before you are aware or certain of the lying patterns. In my book, Gaslighting, I discuss common patterns of manipulation, cycles of abuse, and personality traits of such pathological liars. These include authoritarianism, inability to accept defeat, pridefulness and a lack of humility, outward charm that does not match private behavior, and gathering “flying monkeys” as loyalists to back them up and do their bidding. Such people often follow a pattern of sweeping you off your feet, becoming critical and devaluing you, before treating you with contempt, gaslighting, and rejecting you. Look out for excessive charm, a desire to be in control (for example, ordering for you at dinner at the fancy restaurant he chose), talking more about himself than asking about you, and details in those stories that don’t add up or cannot be verified. Watch how they treat others, particularly those who can do little for them, and be wary of deception and contempt.

When you suspect your partner of lying, grab a journal and list the evidence that is causing you to doubt them. This will help clarify your thoughts and sort through doubts. If it remains unclear, and your partner is not an unsafe, explosive person, consider approaching them directly with questions, not accusations. For example, “I’m feeling confused. You said you were working late on Thursday, but when I was going over the credit card statement, I saw a charge from a restaurant I didn’t expect to find. What do you think is going on here?” If they double down on the lies, it won’t be productive to argue back. Neither accept their excuse nor insist they are wrong, but let it drop for the time being, continuing to watch for other indicators of a pattern. You will not change a pathological liar by proving them wrong. There’s no benefit to getting into a shouting match. Save your energy and focus on gathering information, identifying healthy boundaries, and figuring out what your needs are in this relationship – or if you’d be better off without it.

Remember, pathological liars – those who gaslight you and lie to manipulate and control you – don’t change. This is a pattern of psychological abuse, and you don’t deserve that. Do you love yourself enough to let go?

For more on the complicated matter of gaslighting in relationships, pick up a copy of my book, Gaslighting: A Step-by-Step Recovery Guide to Heal from Emotional Abuse and Build Healthy Relationships.

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